The Ordway Center in St. Paul, Minn., will present the North American premiere of “The Car Man,” Matthew Bourne’s radical restaging of Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.” The full-evening dance piece kicks off the theater’s 2001-02 legit season on Aug. 22.
Presented by Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures company, “The Car Man” toured the U.K. before its West End premiere Sept. 13, 2000, at the Old Vic, which becomes AMP’s permanent home in 2002.
In London, “The Car Man” was promoted as an “auto-erotic thriller.” The director-choreographer transposes the love story involving a soldier and a cigarette-factory girl in Seville, Spain, to a 1960s car garage in a small Midwestern town, Harmony, USA (pop. 375).
In what has become a Bourne signature, there’s also some transposition of sexes, with the new guy in town — a “car man” mechanic — taking the place of Bizet’s famous vamp, Carmen. Never faithful to the original text, Bourne also has thrown in plot points from “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” with the mechanic, Luca, having table-top sex with the garage owner’s wife, Rita, and the two of them killing her husband. The bisexual Luca then seduces a young man, Angelo, and frames him for the murder. Act II is the story of Angelo’s revenge.
“This is definitely our most raw, physically charged and sexy production to date,” Bourne has said of his show. “It’s a pretty steamy tale.”
From the Ordway Center, “The Car Man” travels to L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater, which presented the North American debuts of the choreographer-director’s previous full-evening works: “Swan Lake,” which featured a corps de ballet of male swans, and “Cinderella,” which Bourne updated to the World War II blitz of London.
The original London production of “Swan Lake” brought Bourne an Olivier Award in 1996. On Broadway, he won two Tony Awards in 1999 for his “Swan Lake” direction and choreography.
The Ordway season also includes world premieres of two musicals: “Bingo,” by Michael Heitzman, Ilene Reid and David Holcenberg, and “Tappin’ at the Maxx,” by Steve Zee and Ron Marasco.
“The Prince and the Pauper,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Contact” and “Anything Goes” round out the Ordway season.